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6 min read
Maybe you're reading this article at 2AM, looking for a solution to help you naturally fall asleep?
Well, you're not alone.
According to a new survey from Consumer Reports, around 27% of adults claim to have issues falling asleep or staying asleep. Plus, 68%, or roughly 164 million Americans, have trouble with sleep at least once per week.
So, assuming counting sheep didn't cut it, how can you improve your sleep?
If you aren’t following a perfectly balanced diet (and who does?), you may not be getting all of the vitamins and nutrients you need to get a restful night.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of vitamin C might be that it's beneficial for your immune system. You’re totally right!
However, that’s not all this super vitamin can do for you. In fact, studies suggest that those individuals who have particularly low levels of vitamin C can also experience occasional sleep disturbances (trouble staying asleep).
When low on vitamin C, you are also more likely to wake up sporadically throughout the night, which means you’re not getting the most restful sleep.
If you are not getting enough vitamin C in your diet, from adequate fresh fruit and vegetable intake, adding a supplement of vitamin C to your daily routine is one of the best ways to stop tossing and turning.
Intuitively, you might think vitamin D would wake you up, not help put you to sleep.
In reality, research has shown that adequate vitamin D levels have been linked to the maintenance of good sleep. To get vitamin D, you can eat certain foods like fatty fish, beef liver, and fortified milk and cereal. Your body also naturally produces the vitamin through exposure to sunlight. However, a number of factors can impact the ability for you to get necessary levels including cloud cover patterns, smog, and the angle at which the sun hits the earth where you live. Over 70% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of vitamin D, so especially in the winter months, when there’s less sunlight, supplementation can be beneficial.
While melatonin has only now been making waves in the press recently, it’s been making waves in the brain for millennia.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring sleep hormone that aids in the regulation of the body’s circadian rhythm. That means it helps support your body’s normal wake-sleep cycle. Studies suggest that taking melatonin supplements can help you naturally fall asleep and have better, more restful sleep.
Studies show that up to 75% of Americans are consuming a magnesium-deficient diet but the mineral can actually be incredibly helpful for improving sleep quality and quantity. Magnesium supports two critical aspects of sleep: melatonin production and muscle relaxation. If your diet is lacking in magnesium, you may want to consider supplementation.
A recent study found that a deficiency in calcium can lead to a disruption in your REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. As you may recall from your high school psychology class, REM is the deepest, most rejuvenative state of sleep where dreaming also occurs.
You can find calcium in plenty of foods, including many dairy products as well as collard greens, kale, sardines, sesame seeds, and mustard. You can also easily boost your calcium levels by taking a supplement.
B12 greatly impacts your sleep, too, as studies have linked low levels of the vitamin with shorter duration of sleep. It also turns out your sleep-wake cycles are regulated by the vitamin.
B12 can be found in meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products. Supplementation by vegan friendly vitamins is a strong option for those who don’t eat meat and follow a strictly plant-based diet.
Taking a reliable multivitamin can ensure you get all of the minerals and vitamins you need for proper sleep. If you are aware of a particular deficiency you have, you can also supplement your multivitamin with that specific vitamin or mineral.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends foods such as tart cherries which naturally contain melatonin. Certain nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, are also beneficial as they offer heart-healthy fats and can give you a healthy dose of melatonin right before bedtime.
Other bedtime snacks to consider include fruits or whole grains as carbs, when paired with fats, have been shown to improve the transport of amino acids in the brain.
The National Sleep Foundation contends that the amount of sleep you need and the particular pattern you should follow depend on a couple of factors, the most impactful being your age. Teenagers typically need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep to feel well-rested, while adults need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours.
The National Sleep Foundation also recommends exercising, making sleep a priority, keeping your bedroom cool (65F), and engaging in a relaxing ritual before you climb into bed. Additionally, research shows that it’s important to put away your devices like your phone, computer, and TV before bed as the blue light from these screens trips up your circadian rhythms by suppressing melatonin — making it harder to fall asleep.
REM sleep takes place just about 90 minutes after you’ve fallen asleep and it’s an essential state for dreaming. A quality night’s sleep will bring you through about 4 cycles of REM sleep. When REM occurs, your eyes, even though closed, move from side to side. As you get older, you spend less time in REM sleep, which can be problematic because REM is significant for memory formation and learning.
The same methods discussed earlier, including keeping a regular sleep schedule, preparing for bed, and investing in the right multivitamin can help support your REM sleep.